Blog Post

Blog Post: What's The Deal With Contacts

Your contacts database is central to every piece of your business. You'll use it to keep track of all the different people who have a relationship with your business, to personalize every interaction you have with them, and to attract more contacts like them.

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Video: Introduction to Contacts (4:16)

A contact is the most important tool you have in your inbound toolbox and understanding the best practices that come with your contacts will put you on your way to inbound success.

Hi, welcome to an introduction to contacts. I’m Courtney with HubSpot Academy.

A contact is the most important tool you have in your inbound toolbox. But before we jump into understanding the importance of contacts for your business, let’s define, what is a contact?

A contact can be anybody your company markets to, sells to, partners with, engages with, or employs.

That sounds like a lot of contacts, right? Your contacts database is the central location for keeping track of all the people and companies that have a relationship with your business.

Here’s how I like to think about it: Your contact database is the heart for all of your inbound efforts.

So, what does that mean for marketers? Because every detail and every behavior is stored and easily accessible in your contacts database, it's easy to craft relevant marketing that feels more like a 1:1 conversation. You have easy access to all the information you need to understand and engage with your lead database and delight your customers.

And, what does that mean for sales? A well-managed, integrated contact database will provide you with valuable lead intelligence to help sales professionals close more customers. It also organizes the information relative to each contact in one easy-to-read place, which sales can use to prioritize leads. And when sales does call on those leads, it’s not a cold call.

As your contacts move through their path to purchase — finding your website, converting, and eventually becoming customers — you want to gather as much contact information as possible.

The more information you gather, the easier it will be for your marketing and sales teams to identify which contacts your business can successfully help and ultimately delight.

Effective inbound companies engage with, delight, and continue to sell to their existing customers. And when your current customers feel satisfied, valued, and attended to, their loyalty pays for itself ten times over when these promoters talk to their own networks – strangers to your company – and the whole cycle begins again.

We actually have a name for this conversion path. It’s called the inbound methodology, and the four stages of the inbound methodology are Attract, Convert, Close, and Delight. If you follow these steps, you’ll steer consumers away from being strangers and toward being promoters of your brand! During each stage, there are specific methods through which this conversion is achieved.

A strong contact database is instrumental in this conversion process that allows for you and your business to grow. Any contact database of value should help a business do three things.

One, allow you to see the whole picture of every contact in your database. It should show every touchpoint a contact has had with your company, and organize those touch points into one easy-to-use place.

Two, help align marketing and sales: Your contact database should allow marketers to easily segment, score, and communicate with leads. And it should be just as simple for your sales team to see and interpret how a contact has interacted with your brand.

And lastly, a good contact database should help you seamlessly integrate your contact data with every other tool you use.

Every aspect of your database should connect with your contacts, storing details and context about each contact in one central location: the contact record. It’s the back-end context system that stores information about your contacts and allows you to use that data to improve the way you market, sell, and of course delight.  

Remember, your contacts are the heart of your inbound strategy and the most important tool you and your business have to growing an inbound business.


Quiz: Introduction to Contacts

Review the contacts database and why it is the most important tool in your inbound toolbox

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Video: Setting up Contacts Database (12:19)

How do you build a first-class, inbound-approved contact database? The answer: is by setting up your contact database correctly from the start.


Hi, I'm Courtney with HubSpot Academy. Let’s take a look at how to set up your contacts database.

How do you build a first-class, inbound-approved contact database? The answer: is by setting up your contact database correctly from the start. You'll use it to keep track of all the different people who have a relationship with your business, to personalize the interactions you have with them, and to attract more contacts like them, so it’s important to have your database built correctly from the beginning.

You can transform your contact database into the foundation of your inbound strategy with the following four best practices: first, keep your database clean, second, personalize your database for your own business, third, learn how to tell a story with your contact profile, and last, use lifecycle stages and personas. In addition to these four best practices, we’ll discuss the connection between contacts, companies, and deals.

First up, let’s learn about keeping your contact database up-to-date.

The more contacts you have, the bigger your sample size is. And the larger your sample size, the more accurate your analysis will be. The result? An improved ability to cater to the needs and interests of your contacts.

Keeping your contact database up-to-date will ensure your database continues to work for you and not against you. This is a plea: please, please keep your data clean! Whatever it takes, make sure your business is committed to keeping the information you have accurate. Analysis is only as good as the data on which it’s based. So if the information you’re working with is sub-par, your marketing and sales will be too.

Here are some tips to help you keep your database clean.

First, export contacts that have unsubscribed or bounced from your database. This will make it easier to only look at contacts who can or wish to receive email from you.

Second, frequently review and remove any duplicate contacts in your database.

Lastly, evaluate your contact properties to ensure they’re assisting you, not harming you in keeping your database clean.

The next best practice is to personalize your contact database for your own business. One way you can do this is by creating custom contact properties.

Before we discuss custom contact properties, let’s define what a contact property is. Simply put, a contact property stores specific information about an individual contact. Examples of this are first name, last name, and email address.

Contact properties store information like website activity, email engagement, social media activity, form submissions, conversion information, and data from other integrated software. All of that information can then be surfaced elsewhere to power your inbound business by personalizing emails, building lists, triggering marketing automation, defining personas, creating smart content, and establishing lead intelligence. That’s a ton of information!

A company property, on the other hand, stores information about a group of contacts. Examples of company properties are company name and number of employees. Think about contact and company properties like your memory, storing information that you wish to revisit later.

The next best practice is to learn how to tell a story with the contact profile. After all, there’s no use gathering all this information if you don’t know what it means! I’ll use HubSpot’s contact profile as an example to explain the importance of telling a story with a contact profile.

The easiest way to see how a contact has interacted with your company inside of HubSpot is to look at the contact timeline. The timeline will show you historical information on...well, just about everything. You can see how a contact has engaged with your company through email, social media, and your website.

If you’ve set up integrations with other third party tools, those will be there, too. Not to mention any list membership activity, form conversions and their relevant information, as well as custom events you may have set up.

In addition to storing the historical information about a contact, the contact profile is a valuable window into how a contact is currently being marketed to. You can check which lists they’re currently in, the workflows that are nurturing them, and you can get a quick snapshot of the most important information about a contact. You can even trigger specific marketing actions right from their profile in HubSpot.

Our last best practice is to manage the lifecycle stage property to ensure you have accurate closed-loop reporting and buyer persona data.

Lifecycle stages help you organize your contacts based on where they are in your sales cycle, marking them as a subscriber, lead, marketing qualified lead, sales qualified lead, opportunity, customer, or evangelist. These are just some  examples of lifecycle stages that you could have, but you may wish to personalize them for your business.

Since your communication with your contacts will vary depending on their lifecycle stage, it’s a critical part of setting up and maintaining your database.

Using lifecycle stages properly will help you make sure your communications are tailored to the unique needs and concerns of all of your contacts, from first touch to loyal customer and beyond.

Consider this: The majority of the people who first visit your website and fill out your contact forms are likely trying to learn more about a problem they need to solve. Maybe they’ve downloaded a white paper or subscribed to your monthly newsletter. Either way, they’re early in their buying process.

And so, as inbound marketers, you’re going to want to communicate with that group of people differently from the contacts who request free trials, consultations, or ask for an estimate from your sales reps.

You can think about it this way: when you go to the store to buy clothes, sometimes you’re just browsing. But other times, you’re looking to make a purchase. There’s nothing more frustrating than an overzealous sales associate when you’re just window-shopping, or an empty sales floor when you want to buy.

Using lifecycle stages allows you to avoid putting someone in that frustrating situation.

What if you could tell who is just browsing, and who is eager to make a purchase? Wouldn’t that be great? Now, imagine if you could see what clothes they had in their closet, what pieces they had tried on before, or even if they had discussed your clothing before with a friend? Now we’re starting to see the power of a centralized contact profile, and the contextual advantage of marketing to them with all of the information available in your contact database.

Now you can stop bothering the person who just wanted to check out the new styles in stock. Instead, you can spend your time finding an open fitting room for someone who wants to buy.

Perhaps the most powerful benefit of using lifecycle stages is that it helps align your marketing and sales teams.

Closed-loop marketing gives both the marketing and sales teams insights into which leads are most likely to become customers. When done well, marketing passes more data to sales, which helps sales prioritize leads, allows them to make warmer calls, and increases their close rate. Together, this all increases ROI.

Sales reflects on that process and provides feedback on how marketing’s efforts are translating into customers. The marketing team then analyzes their efforts, which leads to increased lead quality, quantity, and an overall increase of ROI on new marketing campaigns.

The second part of our last best practice is managing buyer persona data. Personas — much like lifecycle stages — are extremely important to a successful database.

Buyer personas (sometimes referred to as marketing personas) are fictional, generalized representations of your ideal customers. Personas help us all — marketing, sales, product, and services professionals — internalize the ideal customer we're trying to attract and relate to our customers as real humans.

Having a deep understanding of your buyer persona or personas is critical to driving content creation, product development, sales follow-up, and really anything that relates to customer acquisition and retention.

There you have it  the four best practices for building a strong and effective contact database from the start.

Lastly, I want to cover the definition of the connection between companies and deals and your contacts.

For example, each contact in HubSpot has its own record, detailing its lifecycle stage and persona. Each company and deal that your business interacts with and pursues will have its own place as well.

Why do you think that companies and deals are important to discuss with contacts?

If you’re thinking, Courtney, I’m a marketer I don’t handle deals, think about this instead: ultimately, everything you do in a business is tieing back to generating revenue for your company. And how do you generate revenue? You attract contacts, convert them, close them, and delight them. Both sales and marketing are involved in this process, which means the companies tied to those contacts are involved, and the deals associated with the companies or specific contacts are involved too.

To create better alignment with your company and get everyone on the same page about generating revenue, you need to be thinking about all of these aspects as a stack of information, not just individual pieces. If everyone on the team is brought into all the moves a contact goes through, you’ll be able to create a consistent and delightful experience for your contacts.

But, what are some ways to manage this alignment? 

First, be transparent with pipeline and revenue numbers, and share information across sales and marketing teams.

Second, use the same team progress dashboards or make dashboards available for sharing to showcase how everything is going.

Next up, discuss lead scoring. Marketing and sales should work together to define lead scoring metrics and establish how lead scores should impact sales reps’ activities.

Lastly, implement pipeline marketing. Pipeline marketing is the next evolution of lead generation that focuses on connecting marketing and sales data to enable decision making and goals based on revenue. Pipeline marketing is inclusive of all channels and campaigns.

Phew, that was a lot of information.

To review, the best practices for using contacts and setting up a successful database are: first, make sure your database is always up-to-date, second, customize your database to fit with your business needs, up next, learn how to interpret the contact profile, and last, manage the lifecycle stage of your contacts and define their personas, and you’ll be well on your way to inbound success. In addition, don’t forget about defining the connection between companies, deals, and contacts.

Remember that a healthy contact database and alignment between marketing and sales are some of the keys to building and growing a successful business.


Quiz: Setting Up Contacts Database

How do you set up your database for success from the start?

Blog Post

Blog Post: How to Create Detailed Buyer Personas for Your Business

Buyer personas (sometimes referred to as marketing personas) are fictional, generalized representations of your ideal customers. Personas help us all -- in marketing, sales, product, and services -- internalize the ideal customer we're trying to attract, and relate to our customers as real humans.

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Blog Post: The Steps You Need to Define the Stages of Your Sales & Marketing Funnel

Most marketers understand the importance of mending the traditional rift between sales and marketing. The mistrust and miscommunication that’s so often found between the two teams can act like an anchor on your company’s growth rate.

Customer Examples
  • DMA Solutions, Inc. Custom Contact Properties

DMA Solutions, Inc. Custom Contact Properties

DMA Solutions, Inc. shows us how to effectively target buyer personas through custom contact properties.

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  • Transcripts

Video: Importing Contacts into HubSpot (3:13)

There are multiple ways to get your contacts into HubSpot, depending on the size of your business and where your contacts are currently kept. Let’s take a look at the three most effective ways to migrate your business’s contacts into your HubSpot account.

Hi, I’m Courtney with HubSpot Academy.

There are multiple ways to get your contacts into HubSpot, depending on the size of your business and where your contacts are currently kept. Let’s take a look at the three most effective ways to migrate your business’s contacts into your HubSpot account: first, importing a list of contacts via a .csv file, second, importing leads and contacts from Salesforce, and lastly, through HubSpot's API or importing from a third party resource.

The first method is importing a list of contacts via a .csv file.

The file of contacts you’re importing must be in a .csv file format and must contain a header row with a column header for each property you’re importing data into, for example, the First Name, Last Name, and Email properties. Unless you’re using the HubSpot CRM, only contacts with a valid email address can be imported, so be sure to include Email as one of the column headers.

The second method is importing leads and contacts from Salesforce.

If you’re integrating your HubSpot and Salesforce accounts, you'll be able to use the “Import from Salesforce” feature in HubSpot. Use this feature to add contacts to your HubSpot account from Salesforce without the need for a .csv export to import.

Using the "Import from Salesforce" feature in HubSpot requires HubSpot to communicate with your Salesforce account via Salesforce's API. Beware! Different Salesforce accounts have different limits put into place by Salesforce on the amount of API calls an account can use in a 24-hour period. Confirm with your Salesforce Administrator that you have enough API calls for the import by multiplying the number of records you’re importing by three and comparing that to your daily limit.

The last method is using HubSpot’s API or importing from a third party resource.

Because of the central role contacts play in the HubSpot software, it’s not surprising that most HubSpot integrations either read or write contacts data. As such, the two most important endpoints in the API are the create and get contacts endpoints. You can also store any custom data that’s important by creating custom fields for your contacts.

One important distinction to note about the HubSpot contacts API is that the primary key for any contact in the HubSpot system is an email address. The API automatically de-duplicates email addresses to assure data cleanliness inside of HubSpot.

For any specific questions about the contacts API, please do refer to our developer forum, where you’ll find answers to many of the common questions.

Now that you know how to add your contacts to HubSpot, get ready to start using the most important tool in your Inbound toolbox.

Quiz: How to Import Contacts into HubSpot

How do you import your contacts into HubSpot?

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Tool Walk-Through: Contact and Company Properties Creation

How to create company and contact properties in HubSpot.

User Guide

User Guide: How to import records from Salesforce

Once you've integrated your HubSpot and Salesforce accounts, you'll be able to use the Import from Salesforce feature in HubSpot to add contacts, companies, deals, and tasks to your HubSpot account from Salesforce without the need for a CSV export to import.

User Guide

Quick Answer: How Do I Import Contacts Into My HubSpot Marketing Contacts Database?

This article will show you how to import contacts into your HubSpot Marketing contact database.

User Guide

Quick Answer: How Do I Import Contacts to the CRM?

You can import contacts to your HubSpot CRM using a .CSV file or a plaintext file in CSV format. If you're managing your contacts in an Excel file, you'll need to save your file as a .CSV before proceeding.